The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis -

Diana Neslen, of Jews for Jus­tice for Pales­tini­ans ( Let­ters, Au­gust 5) com­plains that peo­ple who “chal­lenge the poli­cies of the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment” are “de­monised and de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to de­bate and dis­cuss their views within Jewish venues”. She con­tin­ues, “Let’s not shut down dis­cus­sion on an is­sue which pro­vokes so much pas­sion.” I am sure most of your read­ers would sup­port her plea for free de­bate — not just in Jewish venues, but in all venues where Is­rael is de­bated.

On that ba­sis, I won­der how much hul­la­baloo Diana Neslen is kick­ing up about the se­ri­ous and of­ten vi­o­lent sti­fling of sup­port­ers of Is­rael try­ing to ex­press their views in pub­lic de­bate.

In the JC of Fe­bru­ary 10, for ex­am­ple, you re­ported how, at Edinburgh Univer­sity, the Is­raeli For­eign Min­istry’s most se­nior Mus­lim diplo­mat came for a de­bate and faced a stu­dent mob which shouted him down and called him a Nazi. The event was aban­doned.

The fol­low­ing month in the JC we read: “Is­raeli lec­turer at­tacked by Belfast pro-Pales­tine ac­tivists”, which con­tin­ued: “An Is­raeli law lec­turer had to be res­cued by se­cu­rity of­fi­cers when a seminar was aban­doned af­ter be­ing dis­rupted by pro-Pales­tinian demon­stra­tors… at Queen’s Univer­sity in Belfast.”

Then, on July 14, you re­ported on a de­bate about Is­rael at the Lon­don Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val. Here, Jonathan Freed­land and Carol Gould, both speak­ing against a pro­posed boy­cott of Is­rael, “were re­peat­edly shouted down by pro-Pales­tinian ac­tivists”. It is clear that one of the prin­ci­pal tac­tics of pro-Pales­tinian ac­tivists is to ut­terly si­lence their op­po­nents — rather than to al­low them “the op­por­tu­nity to de­bate and dis­cuss their views”.

If Ms Neslen is truly sin­cere in her wish to pro­mote free de­bate about Is­rael, then let us hear what she and her friends in JfJfP are do­ing to fight against the anti-demo­cratic tac­tics of their fel­low ac­tivists who, again us­ing Ms Neslen’s words, try to “shut down dis­cus­sion on an is­sue which pro­vokes so much pas­sion”. (Dr) Colin Lin­der Carl­ton Close, Edg­ware, Mid­dle­sex

In 2005, I came in for con­sid­er­able flak fol­low­ing a re­port you car­ried of a ser­mon wherein I de­nounced the dis­tin­guished nov­el­ist Amos Oz as a “Jew-hat­ing Jew”. My ire was aroused at that time by a most in­sen­si­tive in­ter­view he gave to the BBC, which was sub­se­quently pub­lished in The Times, dur­ing the course of which he launched a dev­as­tat­ing at­tack on the ide­ol­ogy and re­li­gious Zion­is­tic val­ues of the set­tlers in the very week they were los­ing their homes, com­mu­ni­ties and liveli­hood in an Is­raeli with­drawal.

My dis­taste at his de­sire to pub­li­cise his vi­tu­per­a­tive, anti-re­li­gious views in the pages of the Bri­tish na­tional press was in­ten­si­fied this week in a di­a­tribe he wrote in The Times. He re­ferred to sit­u­a­tions fu­elling the cur­rent protests and drain­ing the re­sources of the state of Is­rael. One of these is “the mam­moth sums chan­nelled into the ul­tra-Ortho­dox yeshivas, where gen­er­a­tions of ig­no­rant bums grow, filled with con­tempt to­ward the state, its peo­ple and the 21st-cen­tury re­al­ity”.

There may be a place for such a coarse, highly bi­ased and sweep­ing de­nun­ci­a­tion of an en­tire re­li­gious sys­tem in the con­text of one of his nov­els. But just what did he think was to be gained by dis­sem­i­nat­ing all that venom among the Bri­tish pub­lic? Oz should be thor­oughly ashamed of him­self for this act of treach­ery to his an­ces­tral tra­di­tion.

The yeshivah world is not be­yond crit­i­cism but a writer of Oz’s abil­ity should know how to pro­mote so­cial change con­struc­tively and from within. Whin­ing to the Bri­tish me­dia can only di­min­ish his cred­i­bil­ity and prove counter-pro­duc­tive. (Rabbi Dr) Jef­frey M Co­hen jef­freyand­glo­ria@ya­

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